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Hepatitis C virus can be cleared in 30-50 per cent of people spontaneously after infection, and direct acting antivirals can clear infection in >95 per cent of treated people with chronic infection. However, reinfection occurs at a frequency of 8-22 per cent if at-risk behaviour is continued.
Hepatitis C virus generates a cellular and humoral immune response, however, these immune responses do not appear to provide ongoing protection against reinfection. In this study we are examining the drivers of reinfection examining both the virus and the humoral immune response in primary infection and in reinfection.
We are studying a select subpopulation of individuals that do not develop chronic infection despite ongoing at-risk behaviour. Single cell B cell isolation is used to characterise IgG specificities generated in these individuals to understand which specificities are associated with protection.
The outcomes of this study will guide future vaccine design by determining the relative importance of cellular and humoral immune responses, specificities associated with protection against reinfection, and whether vaccines should be modified to overcome immunological barriers to generating immunological memory.